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Copyright^ 2896, 
By William James. 

First Edition, February, 1897 

Reprinted, May, 1897, September, 1897, and 
March, 1898, August, 1899, June, 1902, 
January, 1903, May, 1904, June, 1905 

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A. 

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AT most of our American Colleges there are Clubs 
formed by the students devoted to particular 
branches of learning ; and these clubs have the laud- 
able custom of inviting once or twice a year some 
maturer scholar to address them, the occasion often 
being made a public one. I have from time to time 
accepted such invitations, and afterwards had my dis- 
course printed in one or other of the Reviews. It 
has seemed to me that these addresses might now be 
worthy of collection in a volume, as they shed explana- 
tory light upon each other, and taken together express 
a tolerably definite philosophic attitude in a very un- 
technical way. 

Were I obliged to give a short name to the attitude 
in question, I should call it that of radical empiri- 
cisiHy in spite of the fact that such brief nicknames 
are nowhere more misleading than in philosophy. 
I say * empiricism,' because it is contented to regard its 
most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact 
as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of 
future experience ; and I say * radical,' because it treats 
the doctrine of monism itself as an hypothesis, and. 

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viii Preface. 

unlike so much of the half-way empiricism that is 
current under the name of positivism or agnosticism 
or scientific naturalism, it does not dogmatically af- 
firm monism as something with which all experience 
has got to square. The difference between monism 
and pluralism is perhaps the most pregnant of all the 
differences in philosophy. Primd facie ihe world is 
a pluralism ; as we find it, its unity seems to be that 
of any collection ; and our higher thinking consists 
chiefly of an effort to redeem it from that first crude 
form. Postulating more unity than the first experi- 
ences yield, we also discover more. But absolute unity, 
in spite of brilliant dashes in its direction, still remains 
undiscovered, still remains a Grenzbegriff, " Ever not 
quite " must be the rationalistic philosopher's last con- 
fession concerning it. After all that reason can do 
has been done, there still remains the opacity of the 
finite facts as merely given, with most of their pecu- 
liarities mutually unmediated and unexplained. To 
the very last, there are the various * points of view' 
which the philosopher must distinguish in discussing 
the world ; and what is inwardly clear from one point 
remains a bare externality and datum to the other. 
The negative, the alogical, is never wholly banished. 
Something — "call it fate, chance, freedom, sponta- 
neity, the devil, what you will " — is still wrong and 
other and outside and unincluded, from your point of 
view, even though you be the greatest of philosophers. 
Something is always mere fact and givenness ; and 
there may be in the whole universe no one point of 
view extant from which this would not be found to 
be the case. '* Reason," as a gifted writer says, " is 

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Preface. ix 

but one item in the mystery ; and behind the proud- 
est consciousness that ever reigned, reason and won- 
der blushed face to face. The inevitable stales, while 
doubt and hope are sisters. Not unfortunately the 
universe is wild, — game-flavored as a hawk*s wing. 
Nature is miracle all ; the same returns not save to 
bring the different. The slow round of the engrav- 
er's lathe gains but the breadth of a hair, but the 
difference is distributed back over the whole curve, 
never an instant true, — ever not quite." ^ 

This is pluralism, somewhat rhapsodically ex- 
pressed. He who takes for his hypothesis the no- 
tion that it is the permanent form of the world is 
what I call a radical empiricist. For him the crudity 
of experience remains an eternal element thereof. 
There is no possible point of view from which the 
world can appear an absolutely single fact. Real pos- 
sibilities, real indeterminations, real beginnings, real 
ends, real evil, real crises, catastrophes, and escapes, 
a real God, and a real moral life, just as common- 
sense conceives these things, may remain in empiri- 
cism as conceptions which that philosophy gives up 
the attempt either to * overcome * or to reinterpret in 
monistic form. 

Many of my professionally trained confreres will 
smile at the irrationalism of this view, and at the 
artlessness of my essays in point of technical form. 
But they should be taken as illustrations of the radi- 
cally empiricist attitude rather than as argumenta- 
tions for its validity. That admits meanwhile of be- 

1 B. P. Blood : The Flaw in Supremacy : Published by the Author, 
Amsterdam, N. Y., 1893. 

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X Preface. 

ing argued in as technical a shape as any one can 
desire, and possibly I may be spared to do later a 
share of that work. Meanwhile these essays seem 
to light up with a certain dramatic reality the atti- 
tude itself, and make it visible alongside of the higher 
and lower dogmatisms between which in the pages of 
philosophic history it has generally remained eclipsed 
from sight. 

The first four essays are largely concerned with 
defending the legitimacy of religious faith. To some 
rationalizing readers such advocacy will seem a sad 
misuse of one's professional position. Mankind, they 
will say, is only too prone to follow faith unreason- 
ingly, and needs no preaching nor encouragement in 
that direction. I quite agree that what mankind at 
large most lacks is criticism and caution, not faith. 
Its cardinal weakness is to let belief follow recklessly 
upon lively conception, especially when the conception 
has instinctive liking at its back. I admit, then, that 
were I addressing the Salvation Army or a miscella- 
neous popular crowd it would be a misuse of oppor- 
tunity to preach the liberty of believing as I have in 
these pages preached it. What such audiences most 
need is that their faiths should be broken up and ven- 
tilated, that the northwest wind of science should get 
into them and blow their sickliness and barbarism 
away. But academic audiences, fed already on sci- 
ence, have a very different need. Paralysis of their 
native capacity for faith and timorous abulia in the 
religious field are their special forms of mental weak- 
ness, brought about by the notion, carefully instilled, 
that there is something called scientific evidence by 

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Preface. xi 

waiting upon which they shall escape all danger of 
shipwreck in regard to truth. But there is really no 
scientific or other method by which men can steer 
safely between the opposite dangers of believing too 
little or of believing too much. To face such dangers 
is apparently our duty, and to hit the right channel 
between them is the measure of our wisdom as men. 
It does not follow, because recklessness may be a 
vice in soldiers, that courage ought never to be 
preached to them. What should be preached is 
courage weighted with responsibility, — such courage 
as the Nelsons and Washingtons never failed to show 
after they had taken everything into account that 
might tell against their success, and made every pro- 
vision to minimize disaster in case they met defeat. 
I do not think that any one can accuse me of preach- 
ing reckless faith. I have preached the right of the 
individual to indulge his personal faith at his personal 
risk. I have discussed the kinds of risk ; I have con- 
tended that none of us escape all of them; and I 
have only pleaded that it is better to face them open- 
eyed than to act as if we did not know them to be 

After all, though, you will say. Why such an ado 
about a matter concerning which, however we may 
theoretically differ, we all practically agree ? In this 
age of toleration, no scientist will ever try actively to 
interfere with our religious faith, provided we enjoy 
it quietly with our friends and dp not make a pub- 
lic nuisance of it in the market-place. But it is just 
on this matter of the market-place that I think the 
utility of such essays as mine may turn. If reli- 

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xii Preface. 

gious hypotheses about the universe be in order at 
all, then the active faiths of individuals in them, 
freely expressing themselves in life, are the experi- 
mental tests by which they are verified, and the only 
means by which their truth or falsehood can be 
wrought out. The truest scientific hypothesis is that 
which, as we say, * works ' best ; and it can be no 
otherwise with religious hypotheses. Religious his- 
tory proves that one hypothesis after another has 
worked ill, has crumbled at contact with a widening 
knowledge of the world, and has lapsed from the 
minds of men. Some articles of faith, however, 
have maintained themselves through every vicissi- 
tude, and possess even more vitality to-day than ever 
before : it is for the * science of religions ' to tell us 
just which hypotheses these are. Meanwhile the free- 
est competition of the various faiths with one another, 
and their openest application to life by their several 
champions, are the most favorable conditions under 
which tlie survival of the fittest can proceed. They 
ought therefore not to lie hid each under its bushel, 
indulged-in quietly with friends. They ought to live 
in publicity, vying with each other ; and it seems to 
me that (the regime of tolerance once granted, and 
a fair field shown) the scientist has nothing to fear for 
his own interests from the liveliest possible state of 
fermentation m the religious world of his time. Those 
faiths will best stand the test which adopt also his hy- 
potheses, and make them integral elements of their 
own. He should welcome therefore every species of 
religious agitation and discussion, so long as he is will- 
ing to allow that some religious hypothesis may be 

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true. Of course there are plenty of scientists who would 
deny that dogmatically, maintaining that science has 
already ruled all possible religious hypotheses out of 
court. Such scientists ought, I agree, to aim at im- 
posing privacy on religious faiths, the public mani- 
festation of which could only be a nuisance in their 
eyes. With all such scientists, as well as with their 
allies outside of science, my quarrel openly lies ; and 
I hope that my book may do something to persuade 
the reader of their crudity, and range him on my side. 
Religious fermentation is always a symptom of the in- 
tellectual vigor of a society ; and it is only when they 
forget that they are hypotheses and put on rational- 
istic and authoritative pretensions, that our faiths do 
harm. The most interesting and valuable things about 
a man are his ideals and over-beliefs. The same is 
true of nations and historic epochs ; and the excesses 
of which the particular individuals and epochs are 
guilty are compensated in the total, and become pro- 
fitable to mankind in the long run. 

The essay * On some Hegelisms ' doubtless needs 
an apology for the superficiality with which it treats a 
serious subject. It was written as a squib, to be read 
in a college-seminary in Hegel's logic, several of whose 
members,' mature men, were devout champions of the 
dialectical method. My blows therefore were aimed 
almost entirely at that. I reprint the paper here (albeit 
with some misgivings), partly because I believe the 
dialectical method to be wholly abominable when 
worked by concepts alone, and partly because the 
essay casts some positive light on the pluralist-em- 
piricist point of view. 

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xiv Preface. 

The paper on Psychical Research is added to the 
volume for convenience and utility. Attracted to this 
study some years ago by my love of sportsmanlike fair 
play in science, I have seen enough to convince me 
of its great importance, and I wish to gain for it what 
interest I can. The American Branch of the Society 
is in need of more support, and if my article draws 
some new associates thereto, it will have served its 

Apology is also needed for the repetition of the 
same passage in two essays (pp. 59-61 and 96-7, 
loo-i). My excuse is that one cannot always ex- 
press the same thought in two ways that seem equally 
forcible, so one has to copy one's former words. 

The Crillon-quotation on page 62 is due to Mr. 
W. M. Salter (who employed it in a similar manner 
in the * Index' for August 24, 1882), and the dream- 
metaphor on p. 1 74 is a reminiscence from some novel 
of George Sand's — I forget which — read by me thirty 
years ago. 

Finally, the revision of the essays has consisted 
almost entirely in excisions. Probably less than a 
page and a half in all of new matter has been added. 

Harvard University, 

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
December, 1896. 

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The Will to Believe i 

Hypotheses and options, i. Pascal*s wager, 5. Clifford's 
veto, 8. Psychological causes of belief, 9. Thesis of the 
Essay, 11. Empiricism and absolutism, 12. Objective certi- 
tude and its unattainability, 13. Two different sorts of risks in 
believing, 17. Some risk unavoidable, 19. Faith may bring 
forth its own verification, 22. Logical co nditio ns of religjgus^ 
Jbelief, 25. ' 

Temperamental Optimism and Pessimism, 33. How reconcile 
with life one bent on suicide ? 38. Religious melancholy and its 
cure, 39. Decay of Natural Theology, 43. Instinctive antidotes 
to pessimism, 46. Religion involves belief in an unseen exten- 
sion of the wqrW, 51. Scientific positivism, 52. Doubt actuates 
conduct as much as belief does, 54. To deny certain faiths is 
logically absurd, for they make their objects true, 56. Conclu- 
sion, 61. 

The Sentiment of Rationality 63 

Rationality means fluent thinking, 63. Simplification, 65. 
Clearness, 66. Their antagonism, 66. Inadequacy of the ab- 
stract, 68. The thought of nonentity, 71. Mysticism, 74. Pure 
theory cannot banish wonder, 75. The passage to practice may 
restore the feeling of rationality, 75. Familiarity and expect- 
ancy, 76. * Substance,' 80. A rational world must appear con- 

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xvi Contents. 

gruous with our powers, 82. But these differ from man to 
man, 88. Faith is one of them, 90. Inseparable from doubt, 95. 
May verify itself, 96. Its r61e in ethics, 98. Optimism and pes- 
simism, loi. Is this a moral universe ? — what does the problem 
mean ? 103. Anaesthesia versus energy, 107. Active assumption 
necessary, 107. Conclusion, no. 

Reflex Action and Theism iii 

Prestige of Physiology, 112. Plan of neural action, 113. God 
the mind*s adequate object, 116. Contrast between world as 
perceived and as conceived, 118. God, 120. The mind's three 
departments, 123. Science due to a subjective demand, 129. 
Theism a mean between two extremes, 134. Gnosticism, 137. 
No intellection except for practical ends, 140. Conclusion, 142. 

The Dilemma of Determinism 145 

Philosophies seek a rational world, 146. Determinism and 
Indeterminism defined, 149. Both are postulates of ration- 
ality, 152. Objections to chance considered, 153. Determinism 
involves pessimism, 159. Escape via Subjectivism, 164. Sub- 
jectivism leads to corruption, 170. A world with chance in it is 
morally the less irrational alternative, 176. Chance not incom- 
patible with an ultimate Providence, 180. 

The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life . 184 

The moral philosopher postulates a unified system, 185. Ori- 
gin of moral judgments, 185. Goods and ills are created by 
judgments, 189. Obligations are created by demands, 192. The 
conflict of ideals, 198. Its solution, 205. Impossibility of an 
abstract system of Ethics, 208. The easy-going and the strenu- 
ous mood, 211. Connection between Ethics and Religion, 212. 

Great Men and their Environment 216 

Solidarity of causes in the world, 216. The human mind ab- 
stracts in order to explain, 219. Different cycles of operation in 
Nature, 220. Darwin's distinction between causes that produce 
and causes that preserve a variation, 221. Physiological causes 
produce, the environment only adopts or preserves, great men, 
225. When adopted they become social ferments, 226. Messrs. 

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Contents. xvii 

Spencer and Allen criticised, 232. Messrs. Wallace and Gry- 
zanowski quoted, 239. The laws of history, 244. Mental evo- 
lution, 245. Analogy between original ideas and Darwin's 
accidental variations, 247. Criticism of Spencer's views, 251. 

The Importance of iNDivrouALS 255 

Small differences may be important, 256. Individual differ- 
ences are important because they are the causes of social 
change, 259. Hero-worship justified, 261. 

On some Hegeusms 263 

The world appears as a pluralism, 264. Elements of unity in 
the pluralism, 268. Hegel's excessive claims, 272. He makes of 
negation a bond of union, 273. The principle of totality, 277. 
Monism and pluralism, 279. The fallacy of accident in Hegel, 
280. The good and the bad infinite, 284. Negation, 286. Con- 
clusion, 292. — Note on the Anaesthetic revelation, 294. 

What Psychical Research has Accompushed . . 299 
The unclassified residuum, 299. The Society for Psychical 
Research and its history, 303. Thought-transference, 308. 
Gumey's work, 309. The census of hallucinations, 312. Me- 
diumship, 313. The 'subliminal self,' 315. 'Science* and her 
counter-presumptions, 317. The scientific character of Mr. 
Myers's work, 320. The mechanical-impersonal view of life 
versus the personal-romantic view, 324. 

Index 329 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 63 


WHAT is the task which philosophers set them- 
selves to perform ; and why do they philos- 
ophize at all? Almost every one will immediately 
reply: They desire to attain a conception of the 
frame of things which shall on the whole be more ra- 
tional than that somewhat chaotic view which every 
one by nature carries about with him under his hat. 
But suppose this rational conception attained, how is 
the philosopher to recognize it for what it is, and not 
let it slip through ignorance ? The only answer can 
be that he will recognize its rationality as he recog- 
nizes everything else, by certain subjective marks 
with which it affects him. , When he gets the marks, 
he may know that he has got the rationality. 

What, then, are the marks? A strong feeling of 
ease, peace, rest, is one of them. The transition 
from a state of puzzle and perplexity to rational com- 
prehension is full of lively relief and pleasure. 

But this relief seems to be a negative rather than 
a positive character. Shall we then say that the feel- 
ing of rationality is constituted merely by the absence 

1 This essay as far as page 75 consists of extracts from an article 
printed in Mind for July, 1879. Thereafter it is a reprint of an 
address to the Harvard Philosophical Club, delivered in 1880, and 
published in the Princeton Review, July, 1882. 

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64 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

of any feeling of irrationality? I think there are very 
good grounds for upholding such a view. All feel- 
ing whatever, in the light of certain recent psy- 
chological speculations, seems to depend for its 
physical condition not on simple discharge of nerve- 
xurrents, but on their discharge under arrest, impedi- 
ment, or resistance. Just as we feel no particular 
pleasure when we breathe freely, but a very intense 
feeling of distress when the respiratory motions are 
prevented, — so any unobstructed tendency to action 
discharges itself without the production of much 
/cogitative accompaniment, and any perfectly fluent 
( course of thought awakens but little feeling; but 
\ when the movement is inhibited, or when the thought 
s meets with difficulties, we experience distress. It is 
only when the distress is upon us that we can be said 
[to strive, to crave, or to aspire. When enjoying 
plenary freedom either in the way of motion or of 
thought, we are in a sort of anaesthetic state in which 
•we might say with Walt Whitman, if we cared to say 
janything about ourselves at such times, " I am suffi- 
(cient as I am." This feeling of the sufficiency of the 
present moment, of its absoluteness, — this absence 
of all need to explain it, account for it, or justify it, — 
is what I call the. Sentiment of Rationality. As soon, 
in short, as we are enabled from any cause whatever 

<to think with perfect fluency, the thing we think of 
seems to us pro tanto rational. 

Whatever modes of conceiving the cosmos facili- 
tate this fluency, produce the sentiment of rationality. 
Conceived in such modes, being vouches for itself and 
needs no further philosophic formulation. But this 
fluency may be obtained in various ways ; and first 
I will take up the theoretic way. 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 6^ 

The facts of the world in their sensible diversity- 
are always before us, but our theoretic need is that 
they should be conceived in a way that reduces their 
manifoldness to simplicity. Our pleasure at finding 
that a chaos of facts is the expression of a single 
underlying fact is Hke the relief of the musician at 
resolving a confused n;iass of sound into ipelodic or 
harmonic order. The simplified result is handled 
with far less mental effort than the original data ; and 
a philosophic conception of nature is thus in no 
metaphorical sense a labor-saving contrivance. The 
passion for parsimony, for economy of means in 
thought, is the philosophic passion par excellence ; 
and any character or aspect of the world's phenom- 
ena which gathers up their diversity into monotony 
will gratify that passion, and in the philosopher's 
mind stand for that essence of things compared with 
which all their other determinations may by him be 

More universality or extensiveness is, then, one 
mark which the philosopher's conceptions must pos- 
sess. Unless they apply to an enormous 'number of 
cases they will not bring him relief. The knowledge 
of things by their causes, which is often given as a 
definition of rational knowledge, is useless to him 
unless the causes converge to a minimum number, 
while still producing the maximum number of effects.* 
The more multiple then are the instances, the more 
flowingly does his mind rove from fact to fact. The 
phenomenal transitions are no real transitions ; each 
item is the same old friend with a slightly altered 

Who does not feel the charm of thinking that the 
moon and the apple are, as far as their relation to the 


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66 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

earth goes, identical; of knowing respiration and 
combustion to be one; of understanding that the 
balloon rises by the same law whereby the stone 
sinks ; of feeling that the warmth in one's palm when 
one rubs one's sleeve is identical with the motion 
which the friction checks ; of recognizing the differ- 
ence between beast and fish to be only a higher 
degree of that between human father and son ; of 
believing our strength when we climb the mountain 
or fell the tree to be no other than the strength of 
the sun's rays which made the corn grow out of 
which we got our morning meal? 

But alongside of t his passi on for simplification 
there exists a sister passion, which in some minds — 
though they perhaps form the^minority — is its rival. 
This is thej)assion for distingui^hiAg,; it is the im- 
pulse toTJe acquainted with the parts rather than to 
comprehend the whole. Loyalty to clearness and 
integrity of perception, dislike of blurred outlines, of 
vague identifications, are its characteristics. It loves 
to recognize particulars in their full completeness, 
and the more of these it can carry the happier it is. 
It prefers any amount of incoherence, abruptness, and 
fragmentariness (so long as the literal details of the 
separate facts are saved) to an abstract way of con- 
ceiving things that, while it simplifies them, dissolves 
away at the same time their concrete fulness. Clear- 

fness and simplicity thus set up rival claims, and make 
a real dilemma for the thinker. 

A man's philosophic attitude is determined by the 
balance in him of these two cravings. No system 
of philosophy can hope to be universally accepted 
among men which grossly violates either need, or 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 67 

entirely subordinates the one to the other. The fate 
of Spinosa, with his barren union of all things in one 
substance, on the one hand; that of Hume, with 
his equally barren 'looseness and separateness ' of 
everything, on the other, — neither philosopher own- 
ing any strict and systematic disciples to-day, each 
being to posterity a warning as well as a stimulus, — 
show us that the only possible philosophy must be 
a compromise between an abstract monotony and a 
concrete heterogeneity. But the only way to mediate^ 
between diversity and unity is to class the diverse/ 
items as cases of a common essence which you disy 
cover in them. Classification of things into exten-j 
sive * kinds ' is thus the first step ; and classification] 
of their relations and conduct into extensive * laws *j 
is the last step, in their philosophic unification. A 
completed theoretic philosophy can thus never be 
an3^thing more than a completed classification of the 
world's ingredients; and its results must always be 
abstract, since the basis of every classification is ^ 
the abstract essence embedded in the living fact, — ^ 
the rest of the living fact being for the time ignored 
by the classifier. This means that none of our 
explanations are complete. They subsume things 
under heads wider or more familiar; but the last 
heads, whether of things or of their connections, are 
mere abstract genera, data which we just find in 
things and write down. ^ 

When, for example, we think that we have rationally 
explained the connection of the facts A and B by 
classing both under their common attribute jt, it is 
obvious that we have really explained only so much 
of these items as is x. To explain the connection of 
choke-damp and suffocation by the lack of oxygen is 

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68 Essays In Popular Philosophy. 

to leave untouched all the other peculiarities both of 
choke-damp and of suffocation, — such as convulsions 
and agony on the one hand, density and explosibility 
on the other. In a word, so far as A and B contain 
/, My Hy and Oy py ^, rcspectivcly , in addition to Xy they 
are not explained by x. Each additional particu- 
larity makes its distinct appeal. A single explana- 
tion of a fact only explains it from a single point of 
view. The entire fact is not accounted for until each 
and all of its characters have been classed with their 
likes elsewhere. To apply this now to the case of 
the universe, we see that the explanation of the 
world by molecular movements explains it only so 
far as it actually is such movements. To invoke the 
* Unknowable ' explains only so much as is unknow- 
able, * Thought ' only so much as is thought, * God ' 
only so much as is God, Which thought? Which 
God? — are questions that have to be answered by 
bringing in again the residual data from which the 
/'^general term was abstracted. All those data that 
\ cannot be analytically identified with the attribute 
invoked as universal principle, remain as independent 
kinds or natures, associated empirically with the said 
\attribute but devoid of rational kinship with it. 

(^^ Hence the unsatisfactoriness of all our specula- 
tions. On the one hand, so far as they retain any 
multiplicity in their terms, they fail to get us out of 
<^^ empirical sand-heap world; on the other, so far 
-y^as they eliminate multiplicity the practical man des- 
/ pises their empty barrenness. The most they can say 
\ is that the elements of the world are such and such, 
and that each is identical with itself wherever found ; 
but the question Where is it found? the practical man 
is left to answer by his own wit. Which, of all the 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 69 

essences, shall here and now be held the essence of 
this concrete thing, the fundamental philosophy never 
attempts to decide. We are thus led to the con- 
clusion that the simple classification of things is, on 
the one hand, the best possible theoretic philosophy, 
but is, on the other, a most miserable and inadequate 
substitute for the fulness of the truth. It is a mon- 
strous abridgment of life, which, like all abridgments 
is got by the absolute loss and casting out of real 
matter. This is why so few human beings truly care 
for philosophy. The particular determinations which 
she ignores are the real matter exciting needs, quite 
as potent and authoritative as hers. What does the ) 
moral enthusiast care for philosophical ethics? Why c- 
does the JEsthetik of every German philosopher ap- 
pear to the artist an abomination of desolation ? 

Grau, theurer Freund, ist alle Theorie 
Und griin des Lebens goldner Baum. 

The entire man, who feels all needs by turns, will take 
nothing as an equivalent for life but the fulness of ' 
Hving itself. Since the essences of things are as a 
matter of fact disseminated through the whole extent 
of time and space, it is in their spread-outness'and 
alternation that he will enjoy them. When weary of 
the concrete clash and dust and pettiness, he will 
refresh himself by a bath in the eternal springs, or 
fortify himself by a look at the immutable natures. 
But he will only be a visitor, not a dweller in the 
region; he will never carry the philosophic yoke 
upon his shoulders, and when tired of the gray mono- 
tony of her problems and insipid spaciousness of her 
results, will always escape gleefully into the teeming 
and dramatic richness of the concrete world. 

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yo Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

So our study turns back here to its beginning. 
Every way of classifying a thing is but a way of 
""handling it for some particular purpose, ^oncep- 
tinn'ii * Hndfi/ nrft tHrnln£Jr.g] i"<^<-«-""^f^"<-<^ . No ah- 
stract concept can be a vali d substitute for a_cQncrete 
reality exc ept with reference to' a partifiilar interest 
in the conceiv er. The interest of theoretic rationality, 
the relief of identification, is but one of a thousand 
human purposes. When others rear their heads, it 
must pack up its little bundle and retire till its turn 
recurs. The exaggerated dignity and value that 
philosophers have claimed for their solutions is thus 
greatly reduced. The only virtue their theoretic con- 
ception need have is simplicity, and a simple concep- 
tion is an equivalent for the world only so far as the 
world is simple, — the world meanwhile, whatever 
simplicity it may harbor, being also a mightily com- 
plex affair. Enough simplicity remains, however, 
and enough urgency in our craving to reach it, to 
make the theoretic function one of the most invincible 
of human impulses. The quest of the fewest ele- 
ments of things is an ideal that some will follow, as 
long as there are men to think at all. 

But suppose the goal attained. Suppose that at 
last we have a system unified in the sense that has 
been explained. Our world can now be conceived 
simply, and our mind enjoys the relief. Our univer- 
sal concept has made the concrete chaos rational. 
But now I ask, Can that which is the ground of ra- 
tionality" in all else be itself properly called rational? 
It would seem at first sight that it might. One is 
tempted at any rate to say that, since the craving for 
rationality is appeased by the identification of one 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 71 

thing with another, a datum which left nothing else 
outstanding might quench that craving definitively, 
or be rational in se. No otherness being left to annoy 
us, we should sit down at peace. In other words, as 
the theoretic tranquillity of the boor results from his 
spinning no further considerations about his chaotic 
universe, so any datum whatever (provided it were 
simple, clear, and ultimate) ought to banish puzzle 
from the universe of the philosopher and confer 
peace, inasmuch as there would then be for him 
absolutely no further considerations to spin. 

This in fact is what some persons think. Professor 
Bain says, — 

" A difficulty is solved, a mystery unriddled, when it can 
be shown to resemble something else ; to be an example of 
a fact already known. Mystery is isolation^ exception, or it 
may be apparent contradiction : the resolution of the mystery 
is foun d in assimilation, ide ntity, fraternity. When all things 
are assimilated, so far as assimilation can go, so far as like- 
ness holds, there is an end to explanation ; there is an end 
to what the mind can do, or can intelligently desire. . . . 
The path of science as exhibited in modern ages is toward 
generality, wider and wider, until we reach the higliest, the 
widest laws of every department of things ; there explanation 
is finished, mystery ends, perfect vision is gained." 

But, unfortunately, this first answer will not hold. 
Our mind is so wedded to the process of seeing an~ 7^- 
other beside every item of its experience, that when ^ • 
the notion of an absolute datum is presented to it, it 
goes through its usuarprocedure and remains point- 
ing at the void beyond, as if in that lay further matter 1 
for contemplation. In -short, it spins for itself the ] 
further positive consideration of a nonentity envel* ? 

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72 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

oping the being of its datum ; and as that leads no- 
where, back recoils the thought toward its datum 
again. But there is no natural bridge between nonen- 
tity and this particular datum, and the thought stands 
oscillating to and fro, wondering *' Why was there any- 
thing but nonentity ; why just this universal datum 
and not another?" and finds no end, in wandering 
mazes lost. Indeed, Bain's words are so untrue that 
in reflecting men it is just when the attempt to fuse 
the manifold into a single totality has been most 
successful, when the conception of the universe as a 
unique fact is nearest its perfection, that the craving 
for further explanation, the ontological wonder-sick- 
ness, arises in its extremest form. As Schopenhauer 

I says, *'The uneasiness which keeps the never-resting 

I clock of metaphysics in motion, is the consciousness 
that the non-existence of this world is just as possible 

I as its existence." 

The notion of nonentity may thus be called the 
parent of the philosophic craving in its subtilest and 
profoundest sense. Absolute existence is absolute 
mystery, for its relations with the nothing remain 
unmediated to our understanding. One philosopher 
only has pretended to throw a logical bridge over 
this chasm. Hegel, by trying to show that nonen- 
tity and concrete being are linked together by a 
series of identities of a synthetic kind, binds every- 
thing conceivable into a unity, with no outlying no- 
tion to disturb the free rotary circulation of the mind 
within its bounds. Since such unchecked movement 
gives the feeling of rationality, he must be held, if 

, he has succeeded, to have eternally and absolutely 
V'' quenched all rational demands. 

But for those who deem HegeFs heroic effort to 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 73 

have failed, nought remains but to confess that when 
all things have been unified to the supreme degree, 
the notion of a possible other than the actual may still 
haunt our imagination and prey upon our system. 
T|Tpj2nH;n|n nf hpin^ k l eft logically opaqu e to us, 6) 
as something w hich we simply come upon an3~find, 
a nd about whic h (if we wish to act) we^hould pause 
a nd wond er as littJe.asTpxissible. The philosopher's 
logical tranquillity is thus in essence no other than 
the boor's. They differ only as to the point at which 
each refuses to let further considerations upset the 
absoluteness of the data he assumes. The boor does 
so immediately, and is liable at any moment to the 
ravages of many kinds of doubt. The philosopher 
does not do so till unity has been reached, and is 
warranted against the inroads of those considerations, 
but only practically, not essentially, secure from the 
blighting breath of the ultimate Why? If he cannot 
exorcise this question, he must ignore or blink it, and^ 
assuming the data of his system as something given, 
and the gift as ultimate, simply proceed tp a life of 
contemplation or of action based on it. There is no 
doubt that this acting on aruoftaque- ncccssi ty is ac- 
cohipanied_ by a certain-pleasure. See the reverence 
of Carlyle for brute fact: "There is an infinite sig- 
nificance in fact." " Necessity," says Diihring, and 
he means not rational but given necessity, " is the 
last and highest point that we can reach. ... It is 
not only the interest of ultimate and definitive knowl- 
edge, but also that of the feelings, to find a last repose 
and an ideal equilibrium in an ut termo st datum which 
can simply not be other than it is. 

Such IS the~^attitude of ordinary men in their the- 
ism, God's fiat being in physics and morals such an 

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74 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

uttermost datum. Such also is the attitude of all hard- 
minded analysts and Verstandesmenschen, Lotze, 
Renouvier, and Hodgson promptly say that of expe- 
rience as a whole no account can be given, but nei- 
ther seek to soften the abruptness of the confession 
nor to reconcile us with our impotence. 

But mediating attempts may be made by more mys- 
tical minds. The peace of rationality may be sought 
through ecstasy when logic fails. To religious per 
sons of every shade of doctrine moments come when 
the world, as it is, seems so divinely orderly, and the 
acceptance of it by the heart so rapturously com- 
plete, that intellectual questions vanish; nay, the 
intellect itself is hushed to sleep, — as Wordsworth 
says, "thought is not; in enjoyment it expires.** 
Ontological emotion so fills the soul that ontologi- 
cal speculation can no longer overlap it and put 
her girdle of interrogation-marks round existence. 
Even the least religious of men must have felt with 
Walt Whitman, when loafing on the grass on some 
transparent summer morning, that ** swiftly arose and 
spread round him the peace and knowledge that pass 
all the argument of the earth." At such moments 
of energetic living we feel as if there were something 
diseased and contemptible, yea vile, in theoretic 
grubbing and brooding. In the eye of healthy sense 
the philosopher is at best a learned fool. 

Since the heart can thus wall out the ultimate irra- 
tionality which the head ascertains, the erection of its 
procedure into a systematized method would be a 
philosophic achievement of first-rate importance. But 
as used by mystics hitherto it has lacked universality, 
being available for few persons and at few times, and 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 75 

even in these being apt to be followed by fits of reac- ^ 
tion and dryness ; and if men should agree that the 
mystical method is a subterfuge without logical perti- 
nency, a plaster but no cure, and that the idea of non- 
entity can never be exorcised, empiricism will be th^ 
ultimate philosophy. Existence then will be a brute 
fact to which as a whole the emotion of ontologic 
wonder shall rightfully cleave, but remain eternally 
unsatisfied. Then wonderfulness or mysteriousnessV 
will be an essential attribute of the nature of things, 
and the exhibition and emphasizing of it will con- 
tinue to be an ingredient in the philosophic industry 
of the race. Every generation will produce its Job, 
its Hamlet, its Faust, or its Sartor Resartus. 

With this we seem to have considered the possibili- 
ties of purely theoretic rationality. But we saw at the 
outset that rationalit y me ant only ununpakdUea^ntal 
fu nction . Impediments that arise in the theoretic 
sphere might perhaps be avoided if the stream of 
mental action should leave that sphere betimes and 
pass into the practical. Let us therefore inquire what 
constitutes the feeling of rationality in its practical 
aspect. If thought is not to stand forever pointing 
at the universe in wonder, if its movement is to be 
diverted from the issueless channel of purely theoretic 
contemplation, let us ask what conception of the uni- 
verse will awaken active impulses capable of effecting, 
this diversion. A definition of the world which will! 
give back to the mind the free motion which has been ' 
blocked in the purely contemplative path may so far^ 
make the world seem rational again. 

Well, of two conceptions equally fit to satisfy the 
logical demand, that one which awakens the active 

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76 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

impulses, or satisfies other aesthetic demands better 
than the other, will be accounted the more rational 
conception, and will deservedly prevail. 

There is nothing improbable in the supposition 
that an analysis of the world may yield a number of 
formulae, all consistent with the facts. In physical 
science different formulae may explain the phenomena 
equally well, — the one-fluid and the two-fluid theories 
of electricity, for example. Why may it not be so 
with the world? Why may there not be different 
points of view for surveying it, within each of which 
all data harmonize, and which the observer may there- 
fore either choose between, or simply cumulate one 
upon another? A Beethoven string-quartet is truly, 
as some one has said, a scraping of horses' tails on 
cats* bowels, and may be exhaustively described in 
such terms ; but the application of this description 
in no way precludes the simultaneous applicability of 
an entirely different description. Just so a thorough- 
going interpretation of the world in terms of me- 
chanical sequence is compatible with its being inter- 
preted teleologically, for the mechanism itself may be 

If, then, there were several systems excogitated, 
equally satisfying to our purely logical needs, they 
would still have to be passed in review, and approved 
or rejected by our aesthetic and practical nature. Can 
we define the tests of rationality which these parts of 
our nature would use? 

Philosophers long ago observed the remarkable 
fact that mere familiarity with things is able to pro- 
duce a feeling of their rationality. The empiricist 
school has been so much struck by this circumstance 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 77 

as to have laid it down that the feeling of rationality 
and the feeling of familiarity are one and the same 
thing, and that no other kind of rationahty than 
this exists. The daily contemplation of phenomena 
j uxtaposed iTT a" certaTrr"orde"r begets an acceptance 
o f their connection, as absolute as the repose engen- 
dered by theoretic insight into their coherence. To 
explain a thing is to pass easily back to its antece- 
dents ; to know it is easily to foresee its consequents. 
Custom, which lets us do both, is thus the source 
of whatever rationality the thing may gain in our 

In the broad sense in which rationality was defined 
at the outset of this essay, it is perfectly apparent 
that custom must be one of its factors. We said that 
any perfectly fluent and easy thought was devoid of 
the sentiment of irrationality. Inasmuch then as cus- 
tom acquaints us with all the relations of a thing, it 
teaches us to pass fluently from that thing to others, 
and pro tanto tinges it with the rational character. 

Now, there is one particular relation of greater 
practical importance than all the rest, — I mean the 
relation of a thing to its future consequences. So 
long as an object is unusual, our expectations are 
baffled; they are fully determined as soon as it 
becomes familiar. I therefore propose this as the 
first practical requisite which a philosophic concep-\ 
tion must satisfy : // must^ in a general way at leasts \ 
banish uncertainty from the future. The permanent 
presence of the sense of futurity in the mind has been 
strangely ignored by most writers, but the__fect.i§_thal: 
our consciousness at a., given moment is- never, iree^ 
from tEi ijigredifint of expectancy^ Every one knows 
how when a painful thing has to be undergone in the 

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78 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

near future, the vague feeling that it is impending pen- 
etrates all our thought with uneasiness and subtly 
vitiates our mood even when it does not control our 
attention; it keeps us from being at rest, at home in 
the given present. The same is true when a great 
happiness awaits us. But when the future is neutral 
and perfectly certain, * we do not mind it,' as we say, 
but give an undisturbed attention to the actual. JLet 
n ow this haunting sense ^ of futurity be thrown joffjts 
r) l^^ ^rings or left without an object,._and immediately 

^ iinpaqjnp<^^ taWpj; pn<;<;pqc;inn of j;hp rntnd But in 

every novel or unclassified experience this is just 
what occurs; we do not know what will come 

; next ; and novelty per se becomes a mental irritant, 
while custom per se is a mental sedative, merely 
because the one baffles while the other settles our 

* expectations. 

Every reader must feel the truth of this. What is 
meant by coming * to feel at home * in a new place, 
or with new people? It is simply that, at first, when 
we take up our quarters in a new room, we do not 
know what draughts may blow in upon our back, 
what doors may open, what forms may enter, what 
interesting objects may be found in cupboards and 
corners. When after a few days we have learned the 
range of all these possibilities, the feeling of strange- 
ness disappears. And so it does with people, when 
we have got past the point of expecting any essen- 
tially new manifestations from their character. 

The utility of this emotional effect of expectation 
is perfectly obvious ; * natural selection,' in fact, was 
bound to bring it about sooner or later. It is of the 
utmost practical importance to an animal that he 
should have prevision of the qualities of the objects 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 79 

that surround him, and especially that he should not 
come to rest in presence of circumstances that might 
be. fraught either with peril or advantage, — go to 
sleep, for example, on the brink of precipices, in the 
dens of enemies', or view with indifference some new- 
appearing object that might, if chased, prove an 
important addition to the larder. >fnvp1t-y ou^ht to 
i rritate hj iiL^ All jumosiJty-has. thus a practical gene- 
si^ We need only look at the physiognomy of a 
dog or a horse when a new object comes into his 
view, his mingled fascination and fear, to see that the 
element of conscious insecurity or perplexed expecta- 
tion lies at the root of his emotion. A dog's curi- 
osity about the movements of his master or a strange 
object only extends as far as the point of deciding 
what is going to happen next. That settled, curi- 
osity is quenched. The dog quoted by Darwin, 
whose behavior in presence of a newspaper moved 
by the wind seemed to testify to a sense * of the 
supernatural,' was merely exhibiting the irritation of 
an uncertain future. A newspaper which could move 
spontaneously was in itself so unexpected that the 
poor brute could not tell what new wonders the next 
moment might bring forth. 

To turn back now to philosophy. An ultimate 
datum, even though it be logically unrationalized, 
will, if its quality is such as to define expectancy, be 
peacefully accepted by the mind; while if it leave 
the least opportunity for ambiguity in the future, it 
will to that extent cause mental uneasiness if not 
distress. Now, in the ultimate explanations of the 
universe which the craving for rationality has elicited 
from the human mind, the demands of expectancy to 
be satisfied have always played a fundamental part' 

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The jtgrm set up by philosophers as primordial has 
t)eJrr_one which banishes the incalculable. * Sub- 
stance/ for example, means, as Kant says, das 
Beharrliche, which will be as it has been, because its 
being is essential and eternal. And although we 
may not be able to prophesy in detail the future 
phenomena to which the substance shall give rise, we 
may set our minds at rest in a general way, when 
we have called the substance God, Perfection, Love, 
or Reason, by the reflection that whatever is in store 
for us can never at bottom be inconsistent with the 
character of this term ; so that our attitude even to- 
ward the unexpected is in a general sense defined. 
Take again the notion of immortality, which for com- 
mon people seems to be the touchstone of every 
philosophic or religious creed : what is this but a 
way of saying that the determination of expectancy 
is the essential factor of rationality? The wrath 
of science against miracles, of certain philosophers 
against the doctrine of free-will, has precisely the 
same root, — dislike to admit any ultimate factor in 
things which may roiit our prevision or upset the 
stability of our outlook. 

Anti-substantialist writers strangely overlook this 
function in the doctrine of substance : " If there be 
such a substratum^' says Mill, "suppose it at this 
instant miraculously annihilated, and let the sensa- 
tions continue to occur in the same order, and how 
would the substratum be missed? By what signs 
should we be able to discover that its existence had 
terminated ? Should we not have as much reason to 
believe that it still existed as we now have ? And if 
we should not then be warranted in believing it, how 
can we be so now?** Truly enough, if we have 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 8i 

already securely bagged our facts in a certain order, 
we can dispense with any further warrant for that 
order. But with regard to the facts yet to come the 
case is far different. It does not follow that if sub- 
stance may be dropped from our conception of the 
irrecoverably past, it need be an equally empty com- 
plication to our notions of the future. Even if it 
were true that, for aught we know to the contrary, 
the substance might develop at any moment a wholly 
new set of attributes, the mere logical form of re- 
ferring things to a substance would still (whether 
rightly or wrongly) remain accompanied by a feeling 
of rest and future confidence. In spite of the acutest 
nihilistic criticism, men will therefore always have a 
liking for any philosophy which explains things pet 

A very natural reaction against the theosophizing 
conceit and hide-bound confidence in the upshot of 
things, which vulgarly optimistic minds display, has 
formed one factor of the scepticism of empiricists, 
who never cease to remind us of the reservoir of pos- 
sibilities alien to our habitual experience which the 
cosmos may contain, and which, for any warrant we 
have to the contrary, may turn it inside out to-morrow. 
Agnostic substantialism like that of Mr. Spencer, 
whose Unknowable Is not merely the unfathomable 
but the ab solute?fra'ti6nal, on which, if consistently 
represented in thought, it is of course impossible to 
count, performs the same function of rebuking a cer- 
tain stagnancy and smugness in the manner in which 
the ordinary philistine feels his security. But con- 
sidered as anything else than as reactions against an 
opposite excess, these philosophies of uncertainty 
cannot be acceptable; the general mind will fail to 


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82 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

come to rest in their presence, and will seek for solu- 
tions of a more reassuring kind. 

We may then, I think, with perfect confidence lay 
down as a first point gained in our inquiry, that a 
prime factor in the philosophic craving is the desire 
to have expectancy defined ; and that no philosophy 
will definitively triumph which in an emphatic manner 
denies the possibility of gratifying this need. 

We pass with this to the next great division of our 
topic. It is not sufficient for our satisfaction merely 
to know the future as determined, for it may be deter- 
mined in either of many ways, agreeable or disagree- 
able. For a philosophy to succeed on a universal 
scale it must define the future congruously with our 
spontaneous powers, A philosophy may be unim- 
peachable in other respects, but either of two defects 
will be fatal to its universal acceptance. First, its 
ultimate principle must not be one that essentially 
baffles and disappoints our dearest desires and most 
cherished powers. A pessimistic principle like Scho- 
penhauer's incurably vicious Will-substance, or Hart- 
mann's wicked jack-of-all-trades the Unconscious, will 
perpetually call forth essays at other philosophies. 
Incompatibility of the future with their desires and ac- 
tive tendencies is, in fact, to most men a source of more 
fixed disquietude than uncertainty itself. Witness 
the attempts to overcome the ' problem of evil,* the 
* mystery of pain.' There is no * problem of good.' 

But a second and worse defect in a philosophy 
than that of contradicting our active propensities is 
to give them no object whatever to press against. A 
philosophy whose principle is so incommensurate 
with our most intimate powers as to deny them all 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 83 

relevancy in universal affairs, as to annihilate their 
motives at one blow, will be even more unpopular 
than pessimism. Better face the enemy than the 
eternal Void ! This is why materialism will always 
fail of universal adoption, however well it may fuse 
things into an atomistic unity, however clearly it may 
prophesy the future eternity. For materialism denies 
reality to the objects of almost all the impulses which 
we most cherish. The real meaning of the impulses, 
it says, is something which has no emotional interest 
for us whatever. Now, what is called * extradition * 
IS quite as characteristic of our emotions as of our 
senses : both point to an object as the cause of the 
present feeling. What an intensely objective refer- 
ence lies in fear ! In like manner an enraptured man 
and a dreary-feeling man are not simply aware of 
their subjective states ; if they were, the force of their 
feelings would all evaporate. Both believe there is 
outward cause why they should feel as they do : 
either, ** It is a glad world ! how good life is ! " or, 
'* What a loathsome tedium is existence ! " Any 
philosophy which annihilates the validity of the ref- 
erence by explaining away its objects or translating 
them into terms of no emotional pertinency, leaves the 
mind with little to care or act for. This is the op- 
posite condition from that of nightmare, but when 
acutely brought home to consciousness it produces 
a kindred horror. In nightmare we have motives! 
to act, but no power ; here we have powers, but no^ 
motives. A nameless unheimlichkeit comes over us 
at the thought of there being nothing eternal in our 
final purposes, in the objects of those loves and aspi- 
rations which are our deepest energies. The mon- 
strously lopsided equation of the universe and its 

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84 Essays in Popular Philosophy, 

knower, which we postulate as the ideal of cognition, 
is perfectly paralleled by the no less lopsided equa- 
tion of the universe and the doer. We demand in it 
a character for which our emotions and active pro- 
pensities shall be a match. Small as we are, minute 
as is the point by which the cosmos impinges upon 
each one of us, each one desires to feel that his reac- 
tion at that point is congruous with the demands of 
the vast whole, — that he balances the latter, so to 
speak, and is able to do what it expects of him. But 
as his abilities to do lie wholly in the line of his natu- 
ral propensities ; as he enjoys reacting with such emo- 
tions as fortitude, hope, rapture, admiration, earnest- 
ness, and the like ; and as he very unwillingly reacts 
with fear, disgust, despair, or doubt, — a philosophy 

[) which should only legitimate emotions of the latter 

! sort would be sure to leave the mind a prey to discon- 

! tent and craving. 

It is far too little recognized how entirely the intel- 
lect is built up of practical interests. The theory of 
evolution is beginning to do very good service by its 
reduction of all mentality to the type of reflex action. 
Cognition, in this view, is but a fleeting moment, a 
cross-section at a certain point, of what in its totality 
is a motor phenomenon. In the lower forms of life 
no one will pretend that cognition is anything more 
than a guide to appropriate action. The germinal 
question concerning things brought for the first time 
before consciousness is not the theoretic *What is 
^ that?' but the practical * Who goes there? ' or rather, 

\ as Horwicz has admirably put it, * What is to be 
done?* — *Was fang' ich an?* In all our discus- 
sions about the intelligence of lower animals, the only 
test we use is that of their acting as if for a purpose. 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 85 

Cognition, in short, is incomplete until discharged in*-- — ^^ 
act ; and although it is true that the later mental de- 
velopment, which attains its maximum through the 
hypertrophied cerebrum of man, gives birth to a vast 
amount of theoretic activity over and above that 
which is immediately ministerial to practice, yet the\ 
earlier claim is only postponed, not effaced, and the ] 
active nature asserts its rights to the end. / 

When the cosmos in its totality is the object offered 
to consciousness, the relation is in no whit altered. 
React on it we must in some congenial way. It was 
a deep instinct in Schopenhauer which led him to 
reinforce his pessimistic argumentation by a running 
volley of invective against the practical man and his 
requirements. No hope for pessimism unless he is 
slain ! 

Helmholtz's immortal works on the eye and ear are 
to a great extent little more than a commentary on 
the law that practical utility wholly determines which 
parts of our sen sations we shall be aware of, and 
wh ich part s we shall_ ignore. We notice or discrimi- 
nate an ingredient of sense only so far as we depend 
upon it to modify our actions. We comprehend a. 
thing when we synthetize it by identity with another 
thing. But the other great department of our under- 
standing, acquaintance (the two departments being / 
recognized in all languages by the antithesis of such 
words as wissen and kennen ; scire and noscerCy etc. ) , 
what is that also but a synthesis, — a synthesis of a 
passive perception with a certain tendency to reac- 
tion? We are acquainted with a thing as soon as we 
have learned how to behave towards it, or how to 
meet the behavior which we expect from it. Up to 
that point it is still ' strange ' to us. 



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86 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

If there be anything at all in this view, it follows 

that however vaguely a philosopher may define the 

ultimate universal datum, he cannot be said to leave 

it unknown to us so long as he in the slightest degree 

pretends that our emotional or active attitude toward 

it should be of one sort rather than another. He 

who says " life is real, life is earnest," however much 

he may speak of the fundamental mysteriousness of 

things, gives a distinct definition to that mysterious- 

i^ess by ascribing to it the right to claim from us the 

I ('particular mood called seriousness, — which means the 

^^ liwillingness to live with energy, though energy bring 

^ (Ipain. The same is true of him who says that all is 

vanity. For indefinable as the predicate ' vanity * may 

(be /;/ sCy it is clearly something that permits anaesthe- 
sia, mere escape from suffering, to be our rule of life. 
There can be no greater incongruity than for a disciple 
of Spencer to proclaim with one breath that the sub- 
stance of things is unknowable, and with the next that 
the thought of it should inspire us with awe, reverence, 
and a willingness to add our co-operative push in the 
direction toward which its manifestations seem to be 
drifting. The unknowable may be unfathomed, but 
/if it make such distinct demands upon our activity we 
^v^urely are not ignorant of its essential quality. 

If we survey the field of history and ask what 
feature all great periods of revival, of expansion of 
the human mind, display in common, we shall find, I 
think, simply this : that each and all of them have 
said to the human being, ** The inmost nature of the 
-N4-eality is congenial to powers which you possess.*' 
In what did the emancipating message of primitive 
Christianity consist but in the announcement that 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 87 

God recognizes those weak and tender impulses 
which paganism had so rudely overlooked ? Take 
repentance : the man who can do nothing rightly can 
at least repent of his failures. But for paganism this 
faculty of repentance was a pure supernumerary, a 
straggler too late for the fair. Christianity took it, 
and made it the one power within us which appealed 
straight to the heart of God. And after the night of 
the middle ages had so long branded with obloquy 
even the generous impulses of the flesh, and defined 
the reality to be such that only slavish natures could 
commune with it, in what did the sursum corda of the 
platonizing renaissance lie but in the proclamation 
that the archetype of verity in things laid claim 
on the widest activity of our whole aesthetic being ? 
What were Luther's mission and Wesley's but appeals 
to powers which even the meanest of men might 
carry with them, — faith and self-despair, — but which 
were personal, requiring no priestly intermediation, 
and which brought their owner face to face with 
God ? What caused the wildfire influence of Rous- 
seau but the assurance he gave that man's nature was 
in harmony with the nature of things, if only the 
paralyzing corruptions of custom would stand from 
between? How did Kant and Fichte, Goethe and 
Schiller, inspire their time with cheer, except by say- 
ing, " Use all your powers ; that is the only obedience 
the universe exacts ** ? And Carlyle with his gospel 
of work, of fact, of veracity, how does he move us 
except by saying that the universe imposes no tasks 
upon us but such as the most humble can perform ? 
Emerson's creed that everything that ever was or will 
be is here in the enveloping now ; that man has but 
to obey himself, — " He who will rest in what he is^ 

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88 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

fs a part of destiny," — is in like manner nothing but 
an exorcism of all scepticism as to the pertinency 
of one's natural faculties. 

In a word, ** Son of Man, stand upon thy feet and 
I will speak unto thee ! ** is the only revelation of 
truth to which the solving epochs have helped the 
disciple. But that has been enough to satisfy the 
v^ greater part of his rational need. /;/ se and per se 
the universal essence has hardly been more defined 
by any of these formulas than by the agnostic x ; 
but the mere assurance that my powers, such as they 
are, are not irrelevant to it, but pertinent; that it 
speaks to them and will in some way recognize their 
reply ; that I can be a match for it if I will, and not a 
footless waif, — suffices to make it rational to my feel- 
ing in the sense given above. Nothing could be more 
absurd than to hope for the definitive triumph of any 
philosophy which should refuse to legitimate, and to 
[}l legitimate in an emphatic manner, the more powerful 

of our emotional and practical tendencies. Fatalism, 
whose solving word in all crises of behavior is " all 
. V striving is vain," will never reign supreme, for the 
\ i' impulse to take life strivingly is indestructible in the 
\ race. Moral creeds which speak to that impulse will 

be widely successful in spite of inconsistency, vague- 
ness, and shadowy determination of expectancy. Man 
needs a rule for his will, and will invent one if one be 
i not given him. 



But now observe a most important consequence. 

Men's active impulses are so differently mixed that a 
. philosophy fit in this respect for Bismarck will almost 
•y certainly be unfit for a valetudinarian poet. In other 

words, although one can lay down in advance the 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 89 

rule that a philosophy which utterly denies all funda- 
mental ground for seriousness, for effort, for hope, 
which says the nature of things is radically alien to 
human nature, can never succeed, — one cannot in 
advance say what particular dose of hope, or of gnos- 
ticism of the nature of things, the definitely successful 
philosophy shall contain. In short, it is almost certain 
that personal temperament will here make itself felt, 
and that although all men will insist on being spoken 
to by the universe in some way, few will insist on being 
spoken to in just the same way. We have here, in 
short, the sphere of what Matthew Arnold likes to 
\ calllAderg-laubejlegitimdite, inexpugnable, yet doomed 
to eternal variations and disputes. 

Take idealism and materialism as examples of what 
I mean, and suppose for a moment that both give a 
conception of equal theoretic clearness and consist- 
ency, and that both determine our expectations equally 
well. Idealism will be chosen by a man of one emo- 
tional constitution, materialism by another. At this 
very day all sentimental natures, fond of conciliation 
and intimacy, tend to an idealistic faith. Why? Be- 
cause idealism gij/ea to the. nature of things such kin-^ 
shigjKith-jQur .personal selves. Our own thoughts are y 
what we are most at home with, what we are least f 
afraid of. To say then that the universe essentially is 
thought, IS to say that I myself, potentially at least, 
am all. There is no radically alien corner, but an all- 
pervading intimacy. Now, in certain sensitively ego- 
tistic minds this conception of reality is sure to put 
on a narrow, close, sick-room air. Everything senti- 
mental and priggish will be consecrated by it. That 
element in reality which every strong man of com- 
mon-sense willingly feels there because it calls forth 

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90 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

powers that he owns — the rough, harsh, sea-wave, 
north-wind element, the denier of persons, the democ- 
ratizer — is banished because it jars too much on the 
desire for communion. Now, it is the very enjoyment 
of this element that throws many men upon the mate- 
rialistic or agnostic hypothesis, as a polemic reaction 
against the contrary extreme. They sicken at a life 
wholly constituted of intimacy. There is an over- 
powering desire at moments to escape personality, to 
revel in the action of forces that have no respect for 
our ego, to let the tides flow, even though they flow 
over us. The strife of these two kinds of mental tem- 
per will, I think, always be seen in philosophy. Some 
men will keep insisting on the reason, the atonement, 
that lies in the heart of things, and that we can act 
with; others, on the opacity of brute fact that we 
must react against 

^ Now, there is one element of our active nature 
which the Christian religion has emphatically recog- 
nized, but which philosophers as a rule have with 
great insincerity tried to huddle out of sight in their 
pretension to found systems of absolute certainty. I 
mean the element of faith. Faith m eans bdiefjn^ 
something concerning whichjdoubj: Ts^till theoreti- 
(^ caily possible ; and as the test of belief is willingness 
to act, o^fie may say that faith is the readiness to act 
in a cause the prosperous issue of which is not certified 
to us in advance. It is in fact the same moral quality 
which we call courage in practical aff*airs ; and there 
will be a very widespread tendency in men of vigor- 
ous nature to enjoy a certain amount of uncertainty 
in their philosophic creed, just as risk lends a zest to 
worldly activity. Absolutely certified philosophies 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 91 

seeking the inconcussum are fruits of mental natures -j 
in which the passion for identity (which we saw to be 
but one factor of the rational appetite) plays an ab- 
normally exclusive part. In the average man, on the 
contrary, the power to trust, to risk a little beyond the 
literal evidence, is an essential function. Any mode 
of conceiving the universe which makes an appeal to 
this generous power, and makes the man seem as if, 
he were individually helping to create the actualityji v' \ '\ 
of the truth whose metaphysical reality he is willingW 
to assume, will be sure to be responded to by large 

The necessity of faith as an ingredient in our men- 
tal attitude is strongly insisted on by the scientific 
philosophers of the present day ; but by a singularly 
arbitrary caprice they say that it is only legitimate 
when used in the interests of one particular propo- 
sition, — the proposition, namely, that the course of 
nature is uniform. That nature will follow to-mor- 
row the same laws that she follows to-day is, they all 
admit, a truth wjiich no man can know ; but in the 
interests of cognition as well as of action we must 
postulate or assume it. As Helmholtz says : " Hier 
gilt nur der eine Rath : vertraue und handle ! " And 
Professor Bain urges : " Our only error is in propos- 
ing to give any reason or justification of the postu- 
late, or to treat it as otherwise than begged at the 
very outset." 

With regard to all other possible truths, however, 
a number of our most influential contemporaries 
think that an attitude of faith is not only illogical but 
shameful. Faith in a religious dogma for which there 
is no outward proof, but which we are tempted to 
postulate for our emotional interests, just as we pos* 

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92 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

tulate the uniformity of nature for our intellectual 
interests, is branded by Professor Huxley as " the 
lowest depth of immorality." Citations of this kind 
from leaders of the modern Aufkldrung might be 
multiplied almost indefinitely. Take Professor Clif- 
ford's article on the 'Ethics of Belief.' He calls it 

* guilt ' and * sin ' to believe even the truth without 

• scientific evidence.' But what is the use of being a 
genius, unless with the same scientific evidence as 
other men, one can reach more truth than they? 
Why does Clifford fearlessly proclaim his belief in the 
conscious-automaton theory, although the * proofs ' be- 
fore him are the same which make Mr. Lewes reject 
it? Why does he believe in primordial units of* mind- 
stuff' on evidence which would seem quite worthless 
to Professor Bain? Simply because, like every human 
ibeing of the slightest mental originality, he is pecu- 
liarly sensitive to evidence that bears in some one di- 
rection. It is utterly hopeless to try to exorcise such 
sensitiveness by calling it the disturbing subjective 
factor, and branding it as the root of all evil. * Sub- 
jective ' be it called ! and * disturbing ' to those whom 
it foils ! But if it helps those who, as Cicero says, 
" vim naturae magis sentiunt," it is good and not evil. 
Pretend what we may, the whole man within us is at 
work when we form our philosophical opinions. In- 
tellect, will, taste, and passion co-operate just as they 
do in practical affairs ; and lucky it is if the passion 
be not something as petty as a love of personal con- 
quest over the philosopher across the way. The ab- 
surd abstraction of an intellect verbally formulating 
all its evidence and carefully estimating the probabil- 
ity thereof by a vulgar fraction by the size of whose 
denominator and numerator alone it is swayed, is 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. ^2 

ideally as inept as it is actually impossible. It is al- 
most incredible that men who are themselves working 
philosophers should pretend that any philosophy can V 
be, or ever has been, constructed without the help of >^ 
personal preference, belief, or divination. How have 
they succeeded in so stultifying their sense for the liv- 
ing facts of human nature as not to perceive that every 
philosopher, or man of science either, whose initiative 
counts for anything in the evolution of thought, has 
taken his stand on a sort of dumb conviction that the 
truth must lie in one direction rather than another, 
and a sort of preliminary assurance that his notion 
can be made to work; and has borne his best fruit 
in trying to make it work? These mental instincts 
in different men are the spontaneous variations upon 
which the intellectual struggle for existence is based. 
The fittest conceptions survive, and with them the 
names of their champions shining to all futurity. 

The coil is about us, struggle as we may. JThe 
on ly escape from f aith is mental nullity^. What we J 
eSjoy most in a Huxley or a Clifford is not the pro- 
fessor with his learning, but the human personality 
ready to go in for what it feels to be right, in spite of 
all appearances. The. CQacrete man hasJtmLone inter- 
est>jr— to be right. That for him is the art of all arts, 
and all means are fair which help him to it. Naked 
he is flung into the world, and between him and nature 
there are no rules of civilized warfare. The rules of 
the scientific game, burdens of proof, presumptions, 
experimenta crucisy complete inductions, and the like, 
are only binding on those who enter that game. As a 
matter of fact we all more or less do enter it, because 
it helps us to our end. But if the means presume to 
frustrate the end and call us cheats for being right in 

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94 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

advance of their slow aid, by guesswork or by hook 
or crook, what shall we say of them? Were all of 
Clifford's works, except the Ethics of Belief, forgot- 
ten, he might well figure in future treatises on psy- 
chology in place of the somewhat threadbare instance 
of the miser who has been led by the association of 
ideas to prefer his gold to all the goods he might buy 

In short, if I am born with such a superior general 
reaction to evidence that I can guess right and act 
accordingly, and gain all that comes of right action, 
while my less gifted neighbor (paralyzed by his scru- 
. pies and waiting for more evidence which he dares 
not anticipate, much as he longs to) still stands 
• shivering on the brink, by what law shall I be for- 
. bidden to reap the advantages of my superior native 
sensitiveness? Of course I yield to my belief in such 
a case as this or distrust it, alike at my peril, just as 
I do in any of the great practical decisions of life. 
If my inborn faculties are good, I am a prophet; if 
poor, I am a failure: nature spews me out of her 
mouth, and there is an end of me. In the total game 
of life we stake our persons all the while ; and if in its 
theoretic part our persons will help us to a conclu- ' 
sion, surely we should also stake them there, how- 
ever inarticulate they may be.^ 

* At most, the command laid upon us by science to believe nothing 
not yet verified by the senses is a prudential rule intended to maxim- 
ize our right thinking and minimize our errors in the long run. In the 
particular instance we must frequently lose truth by obeying it ; but 
on the whole we are safer if we follow it consistently, for we are sure to 
cover our losses with our gains. It is like those gambling and insur- 
ance rules based on probability, in which we secure ourselves against 
losses in detail by hedging on the total run. But this hedging philos* 
V/ophy requires that long run should be there ; and this makes it inap- . 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. g^ 

But in being myself so very articulate in proving 
what to all readers with a sense for reality will seem 
a platitude, am I not wasting words? We cannot 
live or think at all without some degree of faith. 
Faith is synonym g^ig with worWing |^yp(>thp<;iQ The 
only difference is that while some hypotheses can be 
refuted in five minutes, others may defy ages. A 
chemist who conjectures that a certain wall-paper 
contains arsenic, and has faith enough to lead him ^ 
to take the trouble to put some of it into a hydro- ( 
gen bottle, finds out by the results of his action 
whether he was right or wrong. But theories like 
that of Darwin, or that of the kinetic constitution of 
matter, may exhaust the labors of generations in their 
corroboration, each tester of their truth proceeding in 
this simple way, — that he acts as if it were true, and 
expects the result to disappoint him if his assumption 
is false. The longer disappointment is delayed, the 
stronger grows his faith in his theory. 

Now, in such questions as God, immortality, abso- . 
lute morality, and free-will, no non-papal believer at| 
the present day pretends his faith to be of an essen-j' 
tially different complexion ; he can always doubt hisi i 
creed. But his intimate persuasion is that the odds'J 
in its favor are strong enough to warrant him in act- 
ing all along on the assumption of its truth. His 
corroboration or repudiation by the nature of things 
may be deferred until the day of judgment. The 

plicable to the question of religious faith as the latter comes home 
to the individual man. He plays the game of life not to escape 
losses, for he brings nothing with him to lose ; he plays it for gains ; 
and it is now or never with him, for the long run which exists in- 
• deed for humanity, is not there for him. Let him doubt, believe, or 
deny, he runs his risk, and has the natural right to choose which ^^^ ' \ 
one it shall be. 

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96 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

uttermost he now means is something like this : " I 
expect then to triumph with tenfold glory ; but if it 
should turn out, as indeed it may, that I have spent 
my days in a fool's paradise, why, better have been 
the dupe of such a dreamland than the cunning reader 
of a world like that which then beyond all doubt 
unmasks itself to view." In short, we go in against 
materialism very much as we should go in, had we 
a chance, against the second French empire or the 
Church of Rome, or any other system of things toward 
which our repugnance is vast enough to determine 
energetic action, but too vague to issue in distinct ar- 
gumentation. Our reasons are ludicrously incommen- 
surate with the volume of our feeling, yet on the latter 
, we unhesitatingly act. 

Now, I wish to show what to my knowledge has 
never been clearly pointed out, that belief (as meas- 
ured by action) not only does and must continually 
outstrip scientific evidence, but that there is a certain 
class of truths of whose reality belief is a factor as 
well as a confessor ; and that as regards this class of 
•!]truths faith is not only licit and pertinent, but essen- 
/tial and indispensable. The truths cannot become 
/.true till our faith has made them so. 

Suppose, for example, that I am climbing in the 
Alps, and have had the ill-luck to work myself into a 
position from which the only escape is by a terrible 
leap. Being without similar experience, I have no 
evidence of my ability to perform it successfully; but 
hope and confidence in myself make me sure I shall 
not miss my aim, and nerve my feet to execute what 
without those subjective emotions would perhaps have * 
been impossible. But suppose that, on the contrary, 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 97 

the emotions of fear and mistrust preponderate ; or 
suppose that, having just read the Ethics of Belief, 
I feel it would be sinful to act upon an assumption un- 
verified by previous experience, — why, then I shall 
hesitate so long that at last, exhausted and trembling, 
and launching myself in a moment of despair, I miss 
my foothold and roll into the abyss. In this case 
(and it is one of an immense class) the part of wis- 
dom clearly is to believe what one desires ; for the be- 
lief is one of the indispensable preliminary conditions 
of the realization of its object. There are then cases 
where faith creates its own verification. Believe, 1 
and you shall be right, for you shall save yourself; 
doubt, and you shall again be right, for you shall per- 
ish. The only difference is that to believe is greatly I 
to your advantage. 

The future movements of the stars or the facts of 
past history are determined now once for all, whether 
I like them or not. They are given irrespective of 
my wishes, and in all that concerns truths like these 
subjective preference should have no part ; it can only 
obscure the judgment. But in every fact into which 
there enters an element of personal contribution on 
my part, as soon as this personal contribution demands 
a certain degree of subjective energy which, in its turn, 
calls for a certain amount of faith in the result, — so 
that, after all, the future fact is conditioned by my 
present faith in it, — how trebly asinine would it be 
for me to deny myself the use of the subjective method, 
the method of belief based on desire I 

In every proposition whose bearing is universal 
(and such are all the propositions of philosophy), the 
acts of the subject and their consequences throughout 
eternity should be included in the formula. If M 


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98 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

represent the entire world minus the reaction of the 
thinker upon it, and if M + x represent the absolutely 
total matter of philosophic propositions {x standing fof 
the thinker's reaction and its results), — what would be 
a universal truth if the term x were of one complexion, 
might become egregious error if x altered its charac- 
ter. Let it not be said that x is too infinitesimal a 
component to change the character of the immense 
whole in which it lies imbedded. Everything depends 
on the point of view of the philosophic proposition 
in question. If we have to define the universe from 
the point of view of sensibility, the critical material 
for our judgment lies in the animal kingdom, insigni- 
ficant as that is, quantitatively considered. The moral 
definition of the world may depend on phenomena 
more restricted still in range. In short, many a long 
phrase may have its sense reversed by the addition of 
three letters, n-o-t; many a monstrous mass have its 
unstable equilibrium discharged one way or the other 
by a feather weight that falls. 

Let us make this clear by a few examples. The phi- 
losophy of evolution offers us to-day a new criterion 
to serve as an ethical test between right and wrong. 
Previous criteria, it says, being subjective, have left 
us still floundering in variations of opinion and the 
status belli. Here is a criterion which is objective 
and fixed : That is to be called good which is destined 
to prevail or survive. But we immediately see that this 
standard can only remain objective by leaving myself 
and my conduct out. If what prevails and survives 
does so by my help, and cannot do so without that 
help ; if something else will prevail in case I alter my 
conduct, — how can I possibly now, conscious of alter- 
native courses of action open before me, either of which 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. gg 

I may suppose capable of altering the path of events, 
decide which course to take by asking what path 
events will follow? If they follow my direction, evi- 
dently my direction cannot wait on them. The only 
possible manner in which an evolutionist can use his 
standard is the obsequious method of forecasting the 
course society would take but for him^ and then put- 
ting an extinguisher on all personal idiosyncrasies of 
desire and interest, and with bated breath and tiptoe 
tread following as straight as may be at the tail, and 
bringing up the rear of everything. Some pious crea- 
tures may find a pleasure in this ; but not only does 
it violate our general wish to lead and not to follow 
(a wish which is surely not immoral if we but lead 
aright), but if it be treated as every ethical principle 
must be treated, — namely, as a rule good for all men 
alike, — its general observance would lead to its prac- 
tical refutation by bringing about a general dead- 
lock. Each good man hanging back and waiting for 
orders from the rest, absolute stagnation would ensue. 
Happy, then, if a few unrighteous ones contribute an 
initiative which sets things moving again ! 

All this is no caricature. That the course of 
destiny may be altered by individuals no wise evolu- 
tionist ought to doubt. Everything for him has 
small beginnings, has a bud which may be * nipped,' 
and nipped by a feeble force. Human races and 
tendencies follow the law, and have also small begin- 
nings. The best, according to evolution, is that 
which has the biggest endings. Now, if a present 
race of men, enlightened in the evolutionary philoso- 
phy, and able to forecast the future, were able to dis- 
cern in a tribe arising near them the potentiality of 
future supremacy; were able to see that their own 

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race would eventually be wiped out of existence by 
the new-comers if the expansion of these were left 
unmolested, — these present sages would have two 
courses open to them, either perfectly in harmony 
with the evolutionary test: Strangle the new race 
noWf and ours survives; help the new race, and it 
survives. In both cases the action is right as mea- 
sured by the evolutionary standard, — it is action for 
the winning side. 

Thus the evolutionist foundation of ethics is purely 
objective only to the herd of nullities whose votes 
count for zero in the march of events. But for others, 
leaders of opinion or potentates, and in general those 
to whose actions position or genius gives a far-reaching 
import, and to the rest of us, each in his measure, — 
whenever we espouse a cause we contribute to the de- 
termination of the evolutionary standard of right. The 
truly wise disciple of this school will then admit faith 
as an ultimate ethical factor. Any philosophy which 
makes such questions as. What is the ideal type of 
humanity? What shall be reckoned virtues? What 
conduct is good? depend on the question, What is 
going to succeed ? — must needs fall back on personal 
belief as one of the ultimate conditions of the truth. 
For again and again success depends on energy of 
act ; energy again depends on faith that we shall not 
fail ; and that faith in turn on the faith that we are 
right, — which faith thus verifies itself. 

Take as an example the question of optimism or 
pessimism, which makes so much noise just now in 
Germany. Every human being must sometime de- 
cide for himself whether life is worth living. Sup- 
pose that in looking at the world and seeing how 
full it is of misery, of old age, of wickedness and 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. loi 

pain, and how unsafe is his own future, he yields to ^^ ^^ijh t\A 
the pessimistic conclusion, cultivates disgust and dread, a 

ceases striving, and finally commits suicide. He thus ^^^rrJi f^^jiJi 
adds to the mass M of mundane phenomena^ inde- ^V l^ 2! L^..^ 
pendent of his subjectivity, the subjective comple- ^ ^ 

ment x, which makes of the whole an utterly black •«cflri« m^nj A^ 
picture illumined by no gleam of good. Pessimism ^Uc^ » ifcT 
completed, verified by his moral reaction and the deed (j^^^ JI ^^m^^^ ^ 
in which this ends, is true beyond a doubt. M -\- x 
expresses a state of things totally bad. f^ The man's J* ^ * ^^ 
belief supplied all that was lacking to make it so, and g^*-**^' ^^^ 
now that it is made so the belief was right. A^r^,* ^^ «r%A« 

But now suppose that with the same evil facts M^j^ 4,^S>J&Jl} 
the man's reaction x is exactly reversed; suppose 
that instead of giving way to the evil he braves it, 
and finds a sterner, more wonderful joy than any pas- 
sive pleasure can yield in triumphing over pain and 
defying fear ; suppose he does this successfully, and 
however thickly evils crowd upon him proves his 
dauntless subjectivity to be more than their match, — 
will not every one confess that the bad character of 
the M is here the conditio sine qua non of the good *"*• 
character of the xf Will not every one instantly de- 
clare a world fitted only for fair-weather human beings 
susceptible of every passive enjoyment, but without 
independence, courage, or fortitude, to be from a 
moral point of view incommensurably inferior to a 
world framed to elicit from the man every form of 
triumphant endurance and conquering moral energy? 
As James Hinton says, — 

" Little inconveniences, exertions, pains, — these are the 
only things in which we rightly feel our life at all. If these 
be not there, existence becomes worthless, or worse; suc- 

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1 02 Essays in Popular Philosophy. 

cess in putting them all away is fatal. So it is men engage 
in athletic sports, spend their holidays in climbing up moun- 
tains, find nothing so enjoyable as that which taxes their 
endurance and their energy. This is the way we are made, 
I say. " It may or may not be a mystery or a paradox ; it is 
a fact. Now, this enjoyment in endurance is just according 
to the intensity of life : the more physical vigor and balance, 
the more endurance can be made an element of satisfaction. 
A sick man cannot stand it. The line of enjoyable suffering 
is not a fixed one ; it fluctuates with the perfectness of the 
life. That dur pains are, as they are, unendurable, awful, 
overwhelming, crushing, not to be borne save in misery 
and dumb impatience, which utter exhaustion alone makes 
/i^M^ patient, — that our pains are thus unendurable, means not 

l/A^crv^^t-^tiUA • that they are too great, but that we are sick. We have not 
got our proper life. So you perceive pain is no more 
necessarily an evil, but an essential element of the highest 
good.'' 1 

But the highest good can be achieved only by our 
getting our proper life; and that can come about 
only by help of a moral energy born of the faith 
that in some way or other v^e shall succeed in getting 
it if we try pertinaciously enough. This world is 
good, we must say, since it is what we make it, — and 
we shall make it good. How can we exclude from 
the cognition of a truth a faith which is involved in 
the creation of the truth? M has its character inde- 
terminate, susceptible of forming part of a thorough- 
going pessimism on the one hand, or of a meliorism, 
a njoral (as distinguished from a sensual) optimism 
on the other. All depends on the character of the 

1 Life of James Hinton, pp. 172, 173. See also the excellent chap- 
ter on Faith and Sight in the Mystery of Matter, by J. AUanson 
Picton. Hinton's Mystery of Pain will undoubtedly adways remain 
the classical utterance on this subject. 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 103 

personal contribution x. Wherever the facts to be 
formulated contain such a contribution, we may log- 
ically, legitimately, and inexpugnably believe what 
we desire. The belief creates its verification. The 
thought becomes literally father to the fact, as the 
wish was father to the thought.^ 

Let us now turn to the radical question of life, — 
the question whether this be at bottom a moral or 
an unmoral universe, — and see whether the method 
of faith may legitimately have a place there. It is 
really the question of materialism. Is the world a 
simple brute actuality, an existence de facto about 
which the deepest thing that can be said is that it 
happens so to be; or is the judgment of better or 
worsey of ought^ as intimately pertinent to phenom- 
ena as the simple judgment is or is not ? The mate- 
rialistic theorists say that judgments of worth are 
themselves mere matters of fact; that the words 
*good* and * bad ' have no sense apart from subjective 
passions and interests which we may, if we please, play 
fast and loose with at will, so far as any duty of ours 
to the non-human universe is concerned. Thus, when 
a materialist says it is better for him to suffer great 
inconvenience than to break a promise, he only means 
that his social interests have become so knit up with 

1 Observe that in all this not a word has been said of free-wjll. It 
all applies as well to a predetermined as to an indeterminate universe. 
If M ■\- X is fixed in advance, the belief which leads to x and the de- 
sire which prompts the belief are also fixed. But fixed or not, these 
subjective states form a phenomenal condition necessarily preceding 
the facts ; necessarily constitutive, therefore, of the truth M ■\- x which 
we seek. If, however, free acts be possible, a faith in their p6ssibility, 
by augmenting the moral energy which gives them birth, will increase M* 
their frequency in a given individual. 

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I04 Essays In Popular Philosophy. 

keeping faith that, those interests once being granted, 
it is better for him to keep the promise in spite of 
everything. But the interests themselves are neither 
right nor wrong, except possibly with reference to 
some ulterior order of interests which themselves 
again are mere subjective data without character, 
either good or bad. 

For the absolute moralists, on the contrary, the in- 
terests are not there merely to be felt, — they are to 
be believed in and obeyed. Not only is it best for 
my social interests to keep my promise, but best for 
me to have those interests, and best for the cosmos to 
have, this me. Like the old woman in the story who 
described the world as resting on a rock, and then 
explained that rock to be supported by another rock, 
and finally when pushed with questions said it was 
rocks all the way down, — he who believes this to be 
a radically moral universe must hold the moral order 
to rest either on an absolute and ultimate should, or 
on a series of shoulds all the way down.^ 

The practical difference between this objective sort 
of moralist and the other one is enormous. The sub- 
jectivist in morals, when his moral feelings are at war 
with the facts about him, is always free to seek har- 
mony by toning down the sensitiveness of the feelings. 
Being mere data, neither good nor evil in themselves, 
he may pervert them or lull them to sleep by any 
means at his command. Truckling, compromise, time- 
serving, capitulations of conscience, are conventionally 
opprobrious names for what, if successfully carried out, 

* In either case, as a later essay explains (see p. 193), the should 
which the moralist regards as binding upon him must be rooted in the 
feeling of some other thinker, or collection of thinkers, to whose de- 
mands he individually bows. 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 105 

would be on his principles by far the easiest and most 
praiseworthy mode of bringing about that harmony 
between inner and outer relations which is all that he 
means by good. The absolute moralist, on the other 
hand, when his interests clash with the world, is not 
free to gain harmony by sacrificing the ideal inter- 
ests. According to him, these latter should be as 
they are and not otherwise. Resistance then, pov- 
erty, martyrdom if need be, tragedy in a word, — 
such are the solemn feasts of his inward faith. Not 
that the contradiction between the two men occurs 
every day ; in commonplace matters all moral schools 
agree. It is only in the lonely emergencies of life that 
our creed is tested : then routine maxims fail, and we 
fall back on our gods. It cannot then be said that 
the question, Is this a moral world? is a meaning- 
less and unverifiable question because it deals with 
something non-phenomenal. Any question is full of 
meaning to which, as here, contrary answers lead to 
contrary behavior. And it seems as if in answering 
such a question as this we might proceed exactly as 
does the physical philosopher in testing an hypothe- 
sis. He deduces from the hypothesis an experimental 
action, x ; this he adds to the facts M already exist- 
ing. It fits them if the hypothesis be true ; if not, 
there is discord. The results of the action corroborate 
or refute the idea from which it flowed. So here : the 
verification of the theory which you may hold as to 
the objectively moral character of the world can con- 
sist only in this, — that if you proceed to act upon 
your theory it will be reversed by nothing that later 
turns up as your action's fruit ; it will harmonize so 
well with the entire drift of experience that the latter 
will, as it were, adopt it, or at most give it an ampler 

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interpretation, without obliging you in any way to 
change the essence of its formulation. If this be an 
objectively moral universe, all acts that I make on 
that assumption, all expectations that I ground on it, 
will tend more and more completely to interdigitate 
with the phenomena already existing. M + x will 
be in accord ; and the more I live, and the more the 
fruits of my activity come to light, the more satisfac- 
tory the consensus will grow. While if it be not such 
a moral universe, and I mistakenly assume that it is, 
the course of experience will throw ever new impedi- 
ments in the way of my belief, and become more and 
more difficult to express in its language. Epicycle 
upon epicycle of subsidiary hypothesis will have to be 
invoked to give to the discrepant terms a temporary 
appearance of squaring with each other; but at last 
even this resource will fail. 

If, on the other hand, I rightly assume the universe 
to be not moral, in what does my verification con- 
sist? It is that by letting moral interests sit lightly, 
by disbelieving that there is any duty about tkem 
(since duty obtains only as between them and other 
phenomena), and so throwing them over if I find it 
hard to get them satisfied, — it is that by refusing to i 

take up a tragic attitude, I deal in the long-run most ' 

- satisfactorily with the facts of life. " All is vanity " 

Cec<. ZT \r iA_ is here the last word of wisdom. Even though in 
t4'(luum^^ certain limited series there may be a great appear- j. ^ 

' ance of seriousness, he who in the main treats things ' ' 

with a degree of good-natured scepticism and radical 
levity will find that the practical fruits of his epicu- 
rean hypothesis verify it more and more, and not 
only save him from pain but do honor to his sa- 
gacity. While, on the other hand, he who contrary 

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The Sentiment of Rationality. 107 

to reality stiffens himself in the notion that certain 
things absolutely should be, and rejects the truth that 
at bottom it makes no difference what is, will find 
himself evermore thwarted and perplexed and be- 
muddled by the facts of the world, and his tragic dis- 
appointment will, as experience accumulates, seem to 
drift farther and farther away from that final atone- 
ment or reconciliation which certain partial tragedies 
often get. 

Ancestkesia is the watchword of the moral sceptic 
brought to bay and put to his trumps. Energy is that 
of the moralist. Act on my creed, cries the latter, 
and the results of your action will prove the creed 
true, and that the nature of things is earnest infinitely. 
Act on mine, says the epicurean, and the results will 
prove that seriousness is but a superficial glaze upon 
a world of fundamentally trivial import. You and your 
acts and the nature of things will be alike enveloped 
in a single formula, a universal vanitas vanitatum. 

For the sake of simplicity I have written as if the 
verification might occur in the life of a single philoso- 
pher, — which is manifestly untrue, since the theories 
still face each other, and the facts of the world give 
countenance to both. Rather should we expect, that, 
in a question of this scope, the experience of the en- 
tire human race must make the verification, and that 
all the evidence will not be *in' till the final integra- 
tion of things, when the last man has had his say and 
contributed his share to the still unfinished x. Then 
the proof will be complete ; then it will appear with- 
out doubt whether the moralistic x has filled up the 
gap which alone kept the M of the world from form- 
ing an even and harmonious unity, or whether the 

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non-moralistic x has given the finishing touches which 
were alone needed to make the M appear outwardly 
as vain as it inwardly was. 

But if this be so, is it not clear that the facts My 
taken per se^ are inadequate to justify a conclusion 
either way in advance of my action ? My action is 
the complement which, by proving congruous or not, 
reveals the latent nature of the mass to which it is 
applied. The world may in fact be likened unto a 
lock, whose inward nature, moral or unmoral, will 
never reveal itself to our simply expectant gaze. 
The positivists, forbidding us to make any assump- 
tions regarding it, condemn us to eternal ignorance, 
for the 'evidence' which they wait for can never 
come so long as we are passive. But nature has put 
into our hands two keys, by which we may test the 
lock. If we try the moral key and itfitSy it is a moral 
lock. If we try the unmoral key and it fits, it is an 
unmoral lock. I cannot possibly conceive of any- 
other sort of 'evidence' or 'proof than this. It is 
quite true that the co-operation of generations is 
needed to educe it. But in these matters the solidar- 
ity (so called) of the human race is a patent fact. 
The essential thing to notice is that our active pref- 
erence is a legitimate part of the game, — that it is 
our plain business as men to try one of the keys, and 
the one in which we most confide. If then the proof 
exist not till I have acted, and I must needs in acting 
run the risk of being wrong, how can the popular 
science professors be right in objurgating in me 
as infamous a 'credulity' which the strict logic of 
the situation requires ? If this really be a moral 
universe ; if by my acts I be a factor of its destinies ; 
if to believe where I may doubt be itself a moral act 

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The Sentiment. of Rationality, 109 

analogous to voting for a side not yet sure to win, — 
by what right shall they close in upon me and 
steadily negate the deepest conceivable function of 
my being by their preposterous command that I 
shall stir neither hand nor foot, but remain balancing 
myself in eternal and insoluble doubt? Why, doubt 
itself is a decision of the widest practical reach, if 
only because we may miss by doubting what goods 
we might be gaining by espousing the winning side. 
But more than that ! it is often practically impossible 
to distinguish doubt from dogmatic negation. If I 
refuse to stop a murder because I am in doubt 
whether it be not justifiable homicide, I am virtually 
abetting the crime. If I refuse to bale out a boat 
because I am in doubt whether my efforts will keep 
her afloat, I am really helping to sink her. If in the 
mountain precipice I doubt my right to risk a leap, I 
actively connive at my destruction. He who com- 
mands himself not to be credulous of God , of duty , of 0#<>*-- M-*-/ 
freedaai, of i mmortality* may again and again be oJ^JIJCj^ ^^ 
indistinguishable from him who dogmatically denies a^^m O -^^gjj 
them. Scepticism in moral matters is an active ally '^/T ^cl _ 
of immorality. Who is not for is against. The 
universe will have no neutrals in these questions. 
In theory as in practice, dodge or hedge, or talk as 
we like about a wise scepticism, we are really doing 
volunteer military service for one side or the other. 

Yet obvious as this necessity practically is, thou- 
sands of innocent magazine readers lie paralyzed and 
terrified in the network of shallow negations which 
the leaders of opinion have thrown over their souls. 
All they need to be free and hearty again in the 
exercise of their birthright is that these fastidious 
vetoes should be swept away. All that the human 

n I J 

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heart wants is its chance. It will willingly forego 
certainty in universal matters if only it can be allowed 
to feel that in them it has that same inalienable right 
to run risks, which no one dreams of refusing to it in 
the pettiest practical affairs. And if I, in these last 
pages, like the mouse in the fable, have gnawed a few 
of the strings of the sophistical net that has been 
binding down its lion-strength, I shall be more than 
rewarded for my pains. 

To sum up : No philosophy will permanently be 
deemed rational by all men which (in addition to 
4 5* " 7 tT meeting logical demands ') does not to some degree 
7^ — 2'J_- pretend to d etermine expectancy , and in a still 
greater degree make a direct appeal to all those pow- 
g^ ^ q ^ ers of our nature ^ which we hold in highest esteem. 
Faith, being one of these powers, will always remain 
a factor not to be banished from philosophic con- 
structions, the more so since in many ways it brings 
forth its own verification. In these points, then, 
it is hopeless to look for literal agreement among 

The ultimate philosophy, we may therefore con- 
clude, must not be too strait-laced in form, must not 
in all its parts divide heresy from orthodoxy by too 
sharp a line. There must be left over and above the 
propositions to be subscribed, ubique^ semper^ et ab 
omnibuSy another realm into which the stifled soul 
may escape from pedantic scruples and indulge its 
own faith at its own risks ; and all that can here be 
done will be to mark out distinctly the questions 
^ which fall within faith's sphere. 

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